The gloves came off quickly in the Republican primary for the Colorado congressional seat held by U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert.
Boebert's campaign announced on Thursday that it was launching a barrage of attack ads aimed at state Sen. Don Coram, the Montrose Republican who made it official last week that he's challenging the incumbent.
The ads accuse Coram of using his public position to boost hemp farming, allegedly reaping millions of dollars in the process — charges Coram denounced as "lies, lies and damn lies."
"My campaign will be using digital, newspaper, radio, direct mail and maybe some television to generate awareness and seek any whistleblowers that may know more details about Coram’s corrupt behavior," Boebert told Colorado Politics in an email. She added that the campaign plans to spend "[e]nough to educate every voter about what a corrupt politician Don Coram is."
Calling Boebert's claims a "desperate attack," Coram fired back in a detailed statement refuting her campaign's charges and accusing his primary opponent of trying to distract voters from her reputation for fanning the flames of outrage rather than looking out for the interests of her district.
Coram also brought up the nearly $1 million in compensation Boebert's husband received over two years from an oil and gas company, which prompted a formal complaint from a Boebert critic asking the Office of Congressional Ethics to investigate whether the payments violate federal bribery statutes or a rule that prohibits influence-trading by House members.
"If I wanted to make a million dollars," Coram said, "maybe I should try ‘consulting’ for an oil and gas firm for $500,000 a year and lie about it on public filings. That seemed to have worked out for others in this race.”
Responding to charges contained in Boebert's ads, the Coram campaign said in a statement: "Don Coram did not legalize hemp or pass legislation regarding hemp so that he could 'enrich' himself. That is a lie, plain and simple."
It was Colorado voters, Coram's campaign pointed out, who approved two amendments to the state constitution that cleared the path to regulate cultivation and distribution of hemp — an agricultural crop that experienced explosive growth over the last decade.
Coram co-sponsored bipartisan legislation to regulate the crop, his campaign acknowledged, adding, "Since then, Sen. Coram has been proud to continue to work in a bipartisan manner with colleagues on the agriculture committees on the regulation of hemp and the hemp industry during his time in the legislature."
The owner of a gun-themed restaurant in Rifle and one of former President Donald Trump's most ardent supporters, Boebert upset five-term U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton in the 2020 GOP primary in the Western Slope-based 3rd Congressional District. She's facing primary challenges this year from Coram and Archuleta County resident Marina Zimmerman, an industrial crane operator and first-time candidate who launched a shoe-string campaign last spring.
Six Democrats are seeking the nomination for the seat, which tends to favor Republicans by about a 9-point margin, according to an analysis by the independent commission that drew new boundaries last fall ahead of this year's election.
A 60-second radio ad released Thursday by the Boebert campaign cites allegations contained in an anonymous complaint filed with the Colorado attorney general in 2017. The complaint, which was distributed to the media but doesn't appear to have been taken up by the AG's office, attempted to link Coram's support for legislation involving hemp production to a business he owned.
"Swampy, or just plain corrupt?" asks a sinister voice in Boebert's ad, which compares Coram to frequent conservative punching bags Nancy Pelosi and Hunter Biden.
The ad also directs listeners to a website that lays out its accusations and includes a form soliciting leads on "any other corrupt or unprincipled activities by Coram and his cronies," promising to shield the identity of tipsters.
Citing a 2018 story that quotes Coram's high hopes for an indoor hemp operation he described as part of a boom that could help struggling Colorado farmers, Boebert's website determined using figures provided by Coram that he stood to make $25 million in revenue.
Contrary to Boebert's assertions, Coram's campaign insisted, the lawmaker isn't a millionaire and isn't in the hemp business. The business she claims could have yielded her opponent $25 million stopped operating two years ago after failing to turn a profit, his campaign said. What's more, Coram only held a minority stake in the business, and instead of cultivating the 500 acres Boebert used in her calculations, the business only grew the crop on 20 acres.
"Those are the facts that are verifiable," his campaign said.
"Bottom line, this is just another production created by Lauren Boebert to distract from her record as an out-of-touch extremist who would rather spend time defending the likes of Marjorie Taylor Greene than doing her job representing the people of Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District," Coram said.
He added that he looks forward to connecting with what he characterized as the vast majority of the districts voters "who are sick and tired of this type of garbage."
Boebert's campaign said Saturday that it was Coram himself who claimed his business stood to make $25 million from growing hemp.
“Corrupt Coram can try all he wants to deflect from using his public office to enrich himself, but the facts are clearly laid out for all to see at CorruptCoram.com," a Boebert campaign spokesperson said in an email.
"It was Don Coram who told Colorado Public Radio his company contracted with a CBD company for $50,000 per acre and expected to have 500 acres of production. Calling it Coram's $25,000,000 scheme to enrich himself isn't an extrapolation, it's math Don Coram publicly bragged about.”
UPDATE: This story has been updated to include a comment from the Boebert campaign responding to Coram's rebuttal and to correct that Coram said in 2018 that he hoped to cultivate 500 acres of hemp, not the 200,000 acres his campaign said Boebert claimed.
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